In our digital age, chatbots have become ubiquitous on websites and mobile apps. They enable companies to enhance their online presence and interact with users around the clock. But what exactly is a chatbot? How does it work? Let’s take a look at the definition of this conversational agent that facilitates our interactions with online services.
What is a chatbot?
A chatbot, also known as a conversational agent or conversational bot, is a computer program designed to conduct a conversation with a user. Chatbots can be integrated into instant messaging platforms, websites or mobile applications to help web users perform various tasks. Their main purpose is to provide information or guide users towards solutions adapted to their needs.
Chatbots generally operate in two ways:
- Rules-based chatbots: These chatbots operate according to a precise set of predefined rules. They understand and answer the user’s questions based on specific keywords identified in the user’s text. They are limited by the scope of these rules, and won’t be able to answer correctly if the question goes beyond the intended scope.
- Artificial intelligence chatbots: These chatbots are capable of learning and evolving as they interact with users. Thanks to machine learning and natural language processing techniques, they can understand the user’s intentions even if the wording is different from what has been pre-programmed. They offer a smoother, more personalized user experience.
The benefits of chatbots for businesses
The adoption of chatbots by businesses has many advantages, including:
- Save time: chatbots can quickly answer simple, common customer questions, without the need for human intervention. This frees up staff time to concentrate on more complex or strategic tasks.
- Reduce costs: By automating certain customer relationship management tasks, chatbots can help companies reduce their operational expenses.
- Improve customer satisfaction: Accessible 24/7, chatbots are able to provide instant support to customers, regardless of time zone. In this way, they contribute to improving the perception of the company and its quality of service.
- Attract and retain customers: Chatbots make it possible to create personalized experiences for users, which can generate a sense of closeness and engagement with the brand.
Areas of application for chatbots
Chatbots can be used in a variety of sectors and for a variety of tasks. Here are some examples:
The most common area of use for chatbots is customer service. They can be used to respond quickly to frequent customer queries, handle simple requests or direct users to the right contact. A chatbot can, for example, provide information on store opening times, explain how to return an item or help reset a password.
Marketing and sales
Chatbots are also used in marketing and sales strategies. They can send targeted promotional messages based on user preferences, facilitate the act of buying online, or encourage customers to complete their abandoned shopping baskets.
In the field of human resources, chatbots can assist candidates during the recruitment process by providing them with information on vacancies, helping them to complete their application or answering their questions about the company.
Training and apprenticeships
Chatbots can also be used as pedagogical support for learners, guiding their learning path, helping them find resources or answering their questions about the content of a course.
The limits and challenges of chatbots
Despite their undeniable advantages, chatbots also present a few drawbacks and challenges to consider:
- Natural language comprehension: rule-based chatbots may have difficulty understanding certain idioms. Even chatbots with artificial intelligence are not yet perfect in this area, although technological advances are gradually improving their performance.
- Lack of empathy: A chatbot can’t express emotions or feel empathy towards the user. In certain situations, particularly when dealing with complex or sensitive issues, human interaction remains essential to provide adequate support.
- Mistakes and reputational risk: A chatbot that is badly programmed or makes mistakes can damage the company’s reputation with customers. So it’s crucial to design and test your chatbot before deploying it.
- Data confidentiality and security: Like any computer program, chatbots can be vulnerable to malicious attacks and intrusions. Companies must ensure that appropriate security measures are in place to protect users’ personal data.
In short, chatbots are powerful and versatile tools that can greatly facilitate interactions between companies and their customers. Although some challenges remain, their growing adoption bears witness to the effectiveness of these conversational agents in different application areas.